Washington About to Elect First Two Muslim Women to Office

Two women are set to make history as the first Muslim women to be elected to office in Washington, Cross Cut reported.

“This moment in time, the soil is fertile for diverse candidates to come up.” Varisha Khan, who is currently leading the incumbent, Hank Myers, by 47 votes for Position 1, said.

“This is the perfect place for me to give back and change what city council looks like because right now City Hall does not match our community.”

Khan would need to lead by 65 votes or more by Nov. 26, when the votes are certified, to be out of recount range, said King County Elections communications officer Halei Watkins.

If Khan wins, she will be one of the first two Muslim women elected to office in Washington state after Zahra Roach clinched a seat on the Pasco City Council.

According to a report on American Muslims in public office, from 2016 to 2019 approximately 138 Muslims have been elected to office nationwide.

Last year, US Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

This year alone, at least 33 Muslim candidates won elections in local and statewide races across the country, said Jessica Schreindl, communications coordinator for CAIR-WA. 

Washington About to Elect First Two Muslim Women to Office - About Islam
Varisha Khan, candidate for Redmond City Council, in her Redmond home on Nov. 12, 2019. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

Leading the Way

Khan graduated from the University of Washington in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science.

If elected, she would also be the youngest member serving on the Redmond City Council. 

When asked about her decision to run at such a young age, Khan said she hoped to help start building a bench of diverse candidates to serve locally and thought, “Why not here, why not now?”

While others warned her that Redmond was not ready for its first female Muslim candidate, Khan said she “felt like this is the year that we have a chance to really step up.”

Khan admits she also “knew it would be an uphill battle.” 

“I knew it would be a challenge,” Khan said in a telephone interview while noting that her aim was to work three times harder than her opponent, who benefited from more name recognition.   

Washington About to Elect First Two Muslim Women to Office - About Islam

Another Muslim Winner

In Pasco, Roach said she wasn’t aware that a win would make her one of the first Muslim women elected in Washington state. 

“I was completely surprised by it,” said the 37-year-old Roach. “It was not on my radar.”  

Now that she’s been elected, Roach said she will focus on issues surrounding growth and mobility. 

“While, yes, being the first Muslim woman is an honor, there’s really big things at stake for everyone in the community,” Roach said. “I’m committed to making my hometown and this area a better place.”

Leading American Muslim groups have celebrated the historic win of American Muslim candidates in November 5 elections after a total number of 34 were elected.

Winners in November 5 elections included Ghazala Hashmi who was elected as the first Muslim-American Senator in Virginia.

Moreover, Safiya Khalid became the first Somali-American Muslim woman to win a seat on the Lewiston City Council, Maine.

Nadia Mohamed also won a seat on the St. Louis Park City Council in Minnesota.

Also, Democrat Abrar Omeish clinched one of three vacant seats on the Fairfax County School Board.